Dr. Sherry Peck

Dr. Sherry Peck is an Associate Professor in Capital University’s School of Management and Leadership. She is helping PAKRA learn the perspectives women in leadership roles.

"If your customer is successful, then you are successful", says Christine Gattenio, a transformative change leader from IBM (#notzero)

The word passion isn’t usually associated with finance, procurement and accounting (FP&A), benchmarking or shared services. But passion is precisely what has propelled Christine Gattenio from an accounting auditor at PWC to a Vice President at IBM (with some interesting stops along the way).

First you have to determine what you are passionate about.  Chris is quite clear about her passions.  She wants to work for and with people who combine the ability to create a compelling vision with the ability to execute that strategy.

She ALWAYS puts the customer first.  And she insists on knowing the facts and being prepared. These passions, combined with keen analysis and a willingness to take calculated risks, have guided Chris’s career.

Each time that Chris "took things to the next level", these themes were evident.

Chris’s first big jump might not have looked like a step up to the next level but it undeniably was.  She moved from the relative security of being a Fortune 500 VP & Corporate Controller to becoming consultant in a small, boutique-consulting firm (and trading the warmth of Southern California for Cleveland Ohio in the process).  Why?

Because the opportunity had her golden trifecta; an organization with a visionary leader who could execute; a focus on the client and a data driven culture.

So she moved to the “other side of the desk.”

The vision of The Hackett Group was to change the role of accounting and finance from a transactional back office function to strategic business partner through benchmarking, transformation and automation of the end-to-end processes. In 2014, this seems like a no- brainer but 25 years ago, the idea of applying industrial organization concepts to staff functions was innovative.

At The Hackett Group, Chris provided benchmarking assessments to well over a thousand clients across most industries around the world. The benchmarking results that The Hackett Group shared with clients should have triggered organizational change. Some organizations changed, but many did not.

As everyone who has tried to change their diet or exercise routines (in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions) knows, change is hard. And it is even harder when one is talking about both organizational rather than individual changes! Not only are organizations comprised of individuals but cultures and processes help cement behaviors and expectations.

Organizational change requires effective leaders committed to making that change happen and willing to invest in the change process.

"Data alone cannot drive change."

Committed to helping the finance function change from a transaction focused one to a strategic business partner, Chris began contemplating her options. As the business process outsourcing (BPO) market started to bloom, new options were becoming available to help organizations accelerate change. Chris determined that this was becoming an effective transformation approach for finance and accounting functions.

Chris’ next carefully calculated, but nonetheless risky move, was resigning from The Hackett Group (as a single mother no less) in order to pursue outsourcing options. Although she was prepared to take six months to explore the best way to facilitate transformation through outsourcing, Chris was employed within a month. There is no question that Chris’ carefully cultivated network (of both men and women) was a significant factor. Additionally, Chris was extraordinarily clear in where she wanted to go.

Once again Chris was drawn to an organization headed by a strong leader with both vision and the ability to execute. What might be surprising was that Chris, who by her own admission had never taken a marketing course, was hired to lead the marketing and strategy function of Equitant, a leader in Order-to-Cash process outsourcing.

When Equitant was acquired by IBM, less than two years after she joined, Chris was invited to stay at IBM's Global Process Services (GPS). I was not surprised that Chris was invited to join IBM. What I found a bit more intriguing was her decision to stay with IBM.  I had (incorrectly) thought that after nearly a decade with small, specialized organizations Chris might find one of the world’s largest organizations confining, but she clarified her decision for me.

“IBM hits my sweet spot, allowing me to bring value to clients from my entire background.”

Additionally Chris appreciates being able to leverage the power of analytics and the vast global resources IBM provides.  As a data-driven decision-maker, the access to artificial intelligence, #bigdata and other cutting-edge technologies holds great appeal.

If you have been reading this post wondering when is it going to talk about the woman side of things I am afraid you are going to be disappointed. You won’t find it in this posting! Although, Chris’s career has been sponsored mostly by men, she delights in helping her staff (both male and female) develop and grow.

She doesn’t see differences in how women and men lead and manage; "good leadership is good leadership regardless of gender."

She sees both genders collaborating.

Could this be because of Chris’ background in accounting and finance? When Chris began her accounting career women were relatively rare. Could this be attributed to Chris’s fierce resolve to ensure that she is successful ("failure is not an option") in whatever she sets her mind to? I really don’t know.

This is not to say that Chris is not invested in the success of other women.  She has mentored women (as well as men) throughout her career.  She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the YWCA  Greater Cleveland, an organization committed to empowering women and eliminating racism. Again, Chris was drawn to team with a visionary leader with ability to execute. The pattern is clear …
Chris is focused on passionate, data-driven leadership wherever it is found.


1. This interview has been edited and condensed.

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